The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Kathleen Hennessey, Tribune Washington Bureau

BRUSSELS — President Barack Obama laid a wreath at the World War I memorial at Flanders Field on Wednesday, noting the war that tore apart Europe still echoes in conflicts 100 years later.

“The lessons of that war speak to us still,” Obama said in his first stop since arriving in Belgium late Tuesday.

The president is in Brussels for a summit with European Union leaders. He’s also slated to meet with NATO’s secretary-general and deliver a speech at the Palais des Beaux-Arts.

The itinerary, like much of Obama’s European trip this week, is expected to be dominated by talk of a new threat on Europe’s doorstep. Obama and European leaders are to discuss Russia’s armed seizure of the Crimean peninsula and how the West can prevent Moscow from moving further into Ukraine.

On Tuesday, Obama repeated threats of more painful economic sanctions if Russian President Vladimir Putin sends troops into other regions of the former Soviet state. But the president also acknowledged that, for now, Crimea is likely to remain in Russian control. “There’s no expectation that they will be dislodged by force,” he said in a news conference in The Hague.

Still, Russia’s neighbors are looking for assurance that NATO will make good on its obligations to defend them. Other European nations are worried about the effect that broader sanctions would have on their own fragile economies. Obama’s remarks later Wednesday are expected to address such concerns, while avoiding the divisive and dated rhetoric of the Cold War era, officials have said.

The president’s visit comes 100 years after the outbreak of World War I, an anniversary being widely marked in Europe. Nearly 400 of the more than 1,000 Americans killed in Belgium in World War I are honored at the grassy, six-acre battlefield at Flanders.

In a morning ceremony at the cemetery west of Brussels, Obama, Belgian King Philippe and Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo placed wreaths at a monument erected to the missing dead. In remarks afterward, all three leaders made reference to lessons of the war that apply today.

“Our countries have learned the hard way that national sovereignty quickly reaches its limits when met with heavily armed adversaries,” said the king, who noted that his great-grandfather, King Albert, fought in the war.

Di Rupo warned that “those who ignore the past are taking the risk to relive it.”

Noting that chemical weapons were used to “devastating effect” on Flanders Field, Obama said that today, in Syria and elsewhere, the world still struggles to eradicate their use.

“We thought we had banished their use to history, and our efforts send a powerful message that these weapons have no place in a civilized world. This is one of the ways that we can honor those who fell here,” Obama said. “This visit, this hallowed ground, reminds us that we must never, ever take our progress for granted.”

The president also read from the poem that famously memorialized the fighting at Flanders. Written by John McCrae, a Canadian army doctor, the verse called on history to carry the legacy of the war forward:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

AFP Photo/Robin van Lonkhuijsen

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

Dr. Anthony Fauci with President George W. Bush in the Oval Office on June 19, 2008

Photo by Wikimedia Commons

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet

Dr. Anthony Fauci, now 80, joined the National Institutes of Health back in 1968 and has worked with a long list of Republican presidents — from Ronald Reagan to George W. Bush to Gerald Ford. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, he has become an object of irrational hatred in the far-right MAGA movement. And journalist Alexander Bolton, in an article published by The Hill on December 1, explains why that hatred has recently become even worse.

Keep reading... Show less

President Joe Biden at the Port of Baltimore

Reprinted with permission from TomDispatch

In mid-October, President Biden announced that the Port of Los Angeles would begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, joining the nearby Port of Long Beach, which had been doing so since September. The move followed weeks of White House negotiations with the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, as well as shippers like UPS and FedEx, and major retailers like Walmart and Target.

Keep reading... Show less
x
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}